By Dirisu Yakubu
Ambassador Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo is the President, National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN; the umbrella body of all youth organisations in the country. In this exclusive interview with Saturday Vanguard, Sukubo speaks on the reconciliation efforts to unite factions of the council, the involvement of youths in politics, the industrial action embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU amongst sundry issues. Excerpts!
Recently three other factional Presidents of NYCN adopted you as the substantive President. Can you throw more light on how this came about?
To the glory of God, the crisis rocking the council has permanently come to rest as we have come together as one big family. Many attempts were made by entities, stakeholders and notable personalities to bring the youth council together at one point or the other which did not yield the expected result.
Reuniting the council is the Lord’s doing. The idea of bringing the factional heads together was conceived by Ambassador Ololade John Nihi who made the first move. He created a WhatsApp group, added me, Comrade Bello Balla Shagari and Comrade Al-Mustapha Abdullahi and that’s how the whole peace process began.
My three friends that stepped down for me as the substantial President of NYCN are more than capable of leading Nigerian youths but had to sacrifice.
READ ALSO: Youth Party urges Government to purchase PPE, ventilators and enforce directives to gatherings
I thanked them for everything. The history of the council will forever have it that at a point like this, the factional heads of the council reached a compromise on their own to forge a common front in the interest of all Nigerian youths.
The Youth body has always been a target for politicians who use it for their political interest. What are you doing to make the NYCN the authentic voice for Nigerian Youths?
Everywhere in the world, youth constituencies are a major political target for numerous reasons. Politicians will continue to romance youth organizations, associations and so on but the challenge is how do we participate in politics? What role do we play in the game of politics? What do politicians perceive of youths when politics is discussed?
The participation of youths in politics has outgrown using them as political thugs, ballot snatchers, and mere campaign crowds. The fact remains that any country desirous of a prosperous future would take youth engagement beyond political machinations.
The National Youth Council of Nigeria under my watch would be more concerned about youth participation in governance which is in synchronization with youth participation in politics.
My administration will properly collate the youth structures to ensure a re-branding of youths’ participation in politics. We hope to see more youths elected and appointed into offices rather than fighting one another in the name of politics.
Running the council is certainly not an easy task. What have you been able to achieve and what are the challenges?
To lead the apex youth body in Nigeria is a tasking responsibility but with God Almighty, this administration shall succeed beyond expectation.
I had the grace to have risen through the rank and file of youth activism, from being a community youth leader to ethnic youth leader, state youth leader and now the youth President. With the experience gathered over time and the support from the council, we would have a council that represents the interest of all.
Amidst the crisis, this leadership has facilitated scholarship awards for over 1000 students, created employment opportunities for youths across the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria, produced quality representation to Nigeria youths in regional and international fronts, among others.
Youth unemployment is seen as one of the reasons for the rising crime rate in the country. Is the council in talks with the government and relevant stakeholders on ways of mitigating unemployment in the land?
Youth employment is a major focus of my administration. It’s a serious matter and my leadership is looking at it as a top priority. It aches my heart to see talents roaming about the streets without proper utilization. Nigeria is endowed with youths that are broad-minded, skillful and multi-talented; unfortunately, they are underutilized.
The majority of Nigerian youths believe in seeking greener pasture outside the country due to unemployment or underemployment. We cannot continue like this considering the vast material and mineral resources this country is endowed with.
The adage “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” best describes the high rate of criminal activities in the country and it is so sad that the youths form the bulk of criminal elements we have in the country today.
The council under my watch will partner with relevant stakeholders to reduce the unemployment rate in the society. Additionally, leadership workshops and entrepreneurial training would be organized across the country while sponsorship programs will be facilitated for young entrepreneurs and so on.
The Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act got everyone elated when it was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari a few months to the 2019 elections, but not much was achieved by way of having youths in elective positions. What could have been responsible for this?
We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the bill into law. The bill now law was conceived with the good motive of expanding youth participation in governance. In fairness to a certain degree, we are seeing governors appointing youths to serve as commissioners, Special Adviser and Special Assistants and so.
There is a need for the reorientation of Nigerian politics, so people can stop seeing it as a thing for the old or the rich. Our people need to understand that everybody has an equal right to vote and be voted for. In Nigeria, we see politics differently.
A lot of people stay clear of politics because they see it as a dirty game. If we all stay out of politics, how then do we make a change? I implore our youths to consider participation in politics and we shall embark on a sensitization exercise to drive this process.
ASUU is on strike for two weeks. Is the council intervening in one way or the other to have lecturers back to the classrooms?
On the ASUU strike, we call on both parties to come to a compromise as the students are at the receiving end. I strongly believe labour unions should device other means of fighting for their rights or showing grievances rather than going on strike.
The government should not on her part, wait for union leaders to go on strike before addressing their plight. I am using this medium to appeal to both parties to reconsider their stands in the best interest of Nigerian students. The future of the country should not be left hanging in the balance.
What is your assessment of the general state of affairs in the country?
Nigeria is a great country blessed with wonderful people. Irrespective of the situation, Nigerians always stand tall. The government has a role to play in making this country a better place for us all and our part, we shall continue to contribute our quota to the growth of our dear nation.